Originally aired in November 2011, Vietnam in HD brought viewers back to the Vietnam War era, helping them to experience events as the original participants did. At meeting this specific objective, the documentary succeeds nobly. The producers assembled a collection of video clips that had, until then, not been available to the public. This mostly-color footage was discovered in personal collections, in museums or in U.S. government archives. Some video recordings came from veteran's groups or news organizations, while some came from Vietnamese sources.
To this media presentation are added the personal recollections of 13 Americans whose lives were forever changed by those awe-inspiring events. At times they appear on-camera and sometimes their stories are narrated by professional actors while relevant video clips are played back. Through this combination of first-hand accounts and discovered footage, the History network brings you back to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident and steps you forward, concluding with the tragic Fall of Saigon in 1975 and the return of American prisoners of war. Politically, the presentation is even and balanced, maintaining a steady focus on replaying the Vietnam War as it was experienced by its participants and those whose lives were affected by it.
As each of the 13 Americans tell their story a distinct theme develops, characterizing their unique personal circumstances, life choices and experiences.
When his squadron deployed to Southeast Asia in March 1965, U.S. Air Force Captain Keith Connolly was sent to Da Nang Airbase in South Vietnam. There, he participated in the initial phase of Operation Rolling Thunder, which was designed to bomb North Vietnam into submission. Unbelievable footage from the skies over North Vietnam is shown, accompanied by scenes of North Vietnamese air defense teams and civilian rescue squads. From Connolly's recollections, interwoven with the historical narration, emerge this critically important theme: There was an erroneous belief that Vietnam would not require a long-term commitment.
We step forward to November 1965. The Battle of Ia Drang Valley is played back in amazing, high-definition detail, from the airmobile delivery of a 1st Cavalry Division battalion, to the captured North Vietnamese soldier who warned the Americans of the looming threat, to gruesome scenes from the clash at the landing zone. UPI reporter Joe Galloway was the only correspondent at Landing Zone X-Ray, which was at the heart of the battle, and he chronicles events as they unfold before us. In describing the bravery of American soldiers exhibited at Ia Drang he offers a definition of war itself: The courageous acts and sacrifices made by young soldiers on behalf of their friends on the battlefield and their homeland.
Barry Romo enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966 against the wishes of his father, who had served in the Second World War and warned that Vietnam was a different kind of conflict. Romo was awarded a Bronze Star for efforts made to save the platoon he was leading, which had been caught in crossfire on a search and destroy mission in Quang Nam Province. In Vietnam, Romo discovered the existence of this great paradox: Our soldiers learned to relate to the very people on whose behalf we believed we were fighting, as enemies. In a later segment, Romo is shown in a demonstration organized by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, throwing away his medal.
It's late winter in 1969, and three North Vietnamese Army regiments are attempting to infiltrate by way of the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone. With his company, on a lone hilltop without reinforcement or supplies, Marine Lieutenant Karl Marlantes holds out for three days against an entire North Vietnamese regiment. After they are rescued, they are commanded to take a nearby hilltop where enemy soldiers remain dug in. Marlantes finds strength in the thought that he is a Marine, and Marines don't let each other down. In a distant land, without a clear cause to fight for, soldiers carried on for the sake of the survival of their friends in their own units.
A little more than a year later, Lieutenant Colonel James Anderson is leading a 1st Cavalry Division battalion into eastern Cambodia, which had been serving the North Vietnamese as a sanctuary from U.S. ground forces. The elusive headquarters for communist forces, known as the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN), was believed to be in that region. We observe in high-definition video as the Americans discover huge caches of arms and supplies. A wave of protests leads to the May 4, 1970 Kent State shootings, and President Nixon announces the curtailment of the campaign. Anderson was certain that they had advanced to within miles of the COSVN headquarters. His vain protests over being forced to halt epitomize the incredible frustration experienced by U.S. armed forces in Vietnam.
If you would like to know what it was like to live through the Vietnam War era and to understand the experiences of American soldiers who participated in that conflict, then Vietnam in HD is highly recommended for you.